Inhuman Citizenship: Traumatic Enjoyment and Asian American Literature
In Inhuman Citizenship, Juliana Chang claims that literary representations of Asian American domesticity may be understood as symptoms of America’s relationship to its national fantasies and to the “jouissance” that both overhangs and underlies those fantasies. Chang shows that by identifying with the nation’s psychic disturbance, Asian American characters ethically assume responsibility for a national unconscious that is often disclaimed.
To examine her argument that racism ascribes too much, rather than a lack of, humanity, Chang analyzes domestic accounts by Asian American writers, including Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone, Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son, Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker, and Suki Kim’s The Interpreter. Employing careful reading and Lacanian psychoanalysis, Chang finds sites of excess and shock: they are not just narratives of trauma, but they produce trauma as well. They render Asian Americans as not only the objects but also the vehicles and agents of inhuman suffering. And, claims Chang, these novels disturb yet strangely exhilarate the reader through characters who are objects of racism and yet inhumanly enjoy their suffering and the suffering of others.
Through a detailed investigation of “family business” in literature depicting Asian American life, Chang shows that by identifying with the nation’s psychic disturbance, Asian American characters ethically assume responsibility for a national unconscious that is all too often disclaimed.
University of Minnesota Press
Literature, American Studies, Cultural Criticism, Literature, Theory and Philosophy, Lacan, Citizenship
American Studies | Asian American Studies | English Language and Literature | Philosophy | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies
Chang, Juliana, "Inhuman Citizenship: Traumatic Enjoyment and Asian American Literature" (2012). Faculty Book Gallery. 165.